Senators Debate Spending at Royal Palace

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the 2002 budget law last week, but the lawmakers had a rare debate over spending by the Royal Palace.

CPP Senator Keo San said the Royal Palace has been too extravagant for an institution with only two royals—King Norodom Siha­nouk and Queen Norodom Moni­neath.

The palace has up to 50 cars and trucks, he claimed. The palace had just two or three cars during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime, according to Keo San, who was deputy chairman of the National Assembly from 1966-72.

Keo San noted that a bridge built by the Royal Palace’s construction group, Samdech Euv, had been destroyed by floods. He said the palace now does not have the money to rebuild.

He suggested the King’s gifts to visitors were too generous. The King often grants visitors 100,000 riel (about $25).

The senator’s remarks drew a furious response from Funcinpec lawmaker Serey Kosal, who suggested Keo San had violated the constitution by his remarks. The constitution states that the King shall be “inviolable.”

“This is an insult to the Royal Palace and the King,” he said. “The King cannot be criticized.”

But Keo San said he was not criticizing the King, only asking for closer scrutiny of Royal Palace expenditures. He accused Serey Kosal of misinterpreting his remarks and, during remarks directed to the Senate, asked Serey Kosal to “be careful” when he was speaking.

He was apparently referring to misstatements by Serey Kosal in 1997 that Prime Minister Hun Sen had died—statements that some said inflamed factional fighting.

This prompted another Fun­cinpec lawmaker to bang on a table and demand that Keo San explain what he meant. Serey Kosal charged that Keo San had threatened him, a charge that Keo San denied.


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